In order to make full use of its oceans' potential, the South African government is in the process of developing a blue economy strategy, said the Department of Environmental Affairs.
"South Africa has large ocean spaces and we are beginning to appreciate the value of this vital national asset and how it can contribute to our livelihoods and economy," said Environmental Affairs Deputy Director General Dr Monde Mayekiso, on Monday.
He said technology was unlocking the resources that lie within the ocean and the sustainable use of these resources will have a meaningful contribution towards the ability to create jobs in years to come.
"Much of our ocean remains unexplored and therefore there is a need to urgently gather information and describe what resources are available and how they can be used sustainably," he said.
Mayekiso was speaking at a meeting with various stakeholders in Port Elizabeth, following the gazetting of the White Paper on the National Environmental Management of the Ocean (NEMO) for implementation.
The White Paper on NEMO, which was approved by Cabinet in December 2013, aims to govern activities and role players with a stake in the ocean, in order to ensure optimal and sustainable use of the marine environment.
The National Development Plan identified ocean economy as one of the key drivers to eliminate poverty and reduce inequality by 2030.
Dr Mayekiso noted that the policy is in accordance with the South African constitution and is relevant to international laws, domestic legislation which includes the National Environment Act and associated supporting legislations. "A number of key areas such as Aquaculture, Marine Transport, Offshore Oil and Gas Exploration would be crucial in growing the economy providing much needed jobs and improving prosperity while ensuring environmental sustainability and integrity," Dr Mayekiso said.
World Oceans Day
Prior to the engagement with the stakeholders, the department joined the rest of the world in celebrating the annual World Oceans Day (WOD) at the Bayworld Aquarium in Port Elizabeth, on Saturday.
This year's WOD was celebrated under the theme: "Together we have the power to protect our ocean", which recognises the impact of climate change on oceans and people.
As part of the celebrations, the department also held information sessions on Saturday with youth from the New Brighton area and its surrounds. The department officials interacted with pupils from various schools with an aim to create interest in learners to pursue a career in the environment sector.
As the three-day celebrations drew to an end, the department said it was looking forward to working with other departments and government agencies to effectively explore the use, protection and management of the precious oceans.